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Washington County 4-H receives $500 from Afton City Council

Washington County 4-H, which currently has 565 students, occupies eight of the 12 buildings during the Washington County Fair. Washington County 4-H is currently fundraising for its 2012 operating budget.

The 2011 Washington County Fair is still almost six months away, but Washington County 4-H is already planning ahead for 2012.

Dan Dolan, president of the Washington County Agricultural Society, made a presentation during the Feb. 15 Afton City Council meeting requesting support for Washington County 4-H.

"4H is very dear to my heart," Dolan said.

Currently, Washington County 4-H is working on fundraising, seeking out grants and donations and seeking support for 2012, which is why Dolan came to Afton City Council.

Dolan asked the city for financial support, since the foundations they are seeking funding from are looking for evidence of community support.

"What's key to these foundations is, 'Does the community support your program?'" Dolan said. "We believe 4-H is a very positive influence in the community."

Afton was the first stop on a list of Washington County cities that 4-H was presenting to.

"We're going to be working all year long," he said. "It's an ongoing affair."

Previously, cities were not encouraged to give monetary support to the 4-H, but legislation last year now encourages that.

Council member Bill Palmquist said he was in favor of giving a small contribution to the Washington County 4-H given Afton's rural character.

"Given the history of the community, I think we should support it," he said, "even though we may be breaking a little bit with our traditions."

Initially Mayor Pat Snyder said she was hesitant to give a contribution.

"We get many requests every month for funding. It's a slippery slope since they're all good programs," she said. "To decide what's worth supporting and what isn't, I don't feel comfortable doing that."

Eventually, City Council agreed to support 4-H based on the fact that there is legislation encouraging cities to do so.

City Council approved a $500 contribution. The money will come from the city's discretionary fund.

"We sure appreciate the support," Dolan said.

Looking for support

The local 4-H group has been going through some struggles in the past year after Washington County terminated its $131,000 services contract with the University of Minnesota Extension Service, which funds two 4-H coordinator positions.

After a lot of back and fourth, the Washington County Board agreed to fund 4-H $30,000 for 2010 and 2011. 4-H had to raise the rest of its $150,000 operating budget through grants, fundraising, donations and dues.

Washington County 4-H has 565 students

The organization is hoping to have an operating budget of $180,000 for 2012 since 4-H is currently developing a new peer-mentor program called "Youth Teaching Youth."

Dolan said he is very confident in 4-H's ability to raise all of the money they need.

Next stop is Scandia in early March.

"Afton was the first step," he said. "That will help us move toward our goal."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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